A.J. Pierzynskis move to the Texas Rangers has given Tyler Flowers the one thing he has wanted most these last few years: opportunity.
Though Pierzynskis deal with the Rangers is still not official, his one-year, 7.5 million-contract appears to pave the way for Flowers to take over as the White Sox everyday starting catcher in 2013. Flowers, who hit .213 with seven homers in 153 plate appearances last season, said by phone late Friday he doesnt have any expectations that the White Sox simply hand over the keys to the starting role. But what the 26-year-old (he turns 27 in January) does want is a fair chance to take over the job and believes he will thrive in the situation once the team reaches Glendale, Ariz. in February.
I dont want to be handed the job, but I want a level playing field and then Ill take my chances, Flowers said.
Acquired by the White Sox in a Dec. 4, 2008 trade that sent Javier Vazquez to Atlanta, Flowers has technically had a chance to win the White Sox job each of the past few springs. A two-time Baseball America top-100 prospect, Flowers believed he might have a shot the last time Pierzynski was a free agent heading into 2010 only to see the veteran return on a two-year deal.
Though he was in camp, Flowers said he always knew the odds of him taking the job from Pierzynski were long.
Theres a chance, but when youre up against someone making 7 million a year the reality is your chances are pretty slim, Flowers said. Im fighting for that job. But do I have a chance? Probably not. But you have to prepare because what if AJ is hurt.
The White Sox hoped Flowers would play winter ball in Venezuela this offseason but his own injury wiped out the plan. With two games left in the regular season, Flowers suffered a broken wrist when he was hit with a pitch by Cleveland Indians closer Chris Perez.
Flowers was in a cast until 2 12 weeks ago, which he said restricted the start of his offseason weight-training program by one week. But he also noted that he has started his hitting and throwing programs on time and expects to be fine for the teams first partial workout on Feb. 12.
In limited playing time in the majors, Flowers has a .205.307.388 slash line. Those numbers have led to some White Sox fans to wonder how the team believes Flowers can take over as the teams full-start starter on the heels of a career performance by Pierzynski, who hit .278 with 27 home runs and 77 RBIs last season.
But the teams decision-makers think Flowers performance will improve with everyday repetitions. Flowers had a .275.391.481 slash line and 80 homers in 2,253 minor-league plate appearances.
His pro numbers also have come with once-a-week appearances and rarely has Flowers had a chance to start in long stretches of games. Last summer, then-general manager Kenny Williams said Flowers doesn't need to worry about his offense because he played sporadically.
The team is very high on Flowers defensive abilities behind the plate. Theyre confident he can call a good game, provide a strong target and he has a strong arm. Last season, Flowers threw out 14 of 42 base stealers and had a 1.2 WAR, according to Fangraphs.com.
Though some might have doubts, Flowers doesnt. He knows there might be a growing pain here and there but is sure hes capable.
Its not going to be a cakewalk playing every day, Flowers said. Teams see you and your weaknesses and they adjust and I have to take care of those weaknesses. Im definitely confident. It really has nothing to do with that. I believe Im good. My intention is to do it and show everyone I can hang around for a long time.